Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 303-312
 Header Item School Discipline
 Header Item Child Care Services Funding
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Road Signage

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 943 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 303-312

School Discipline

 303. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the names of the agencies or departmental sections that she has charged with making investigations and inquiries further to information (details supplied) concerning forced absence sanction and punishments at a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14379/17]

 304. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the timeframe within which she will have received a report providing her with the results, the inquiries and investigations she will initiate further to information (details supplied) concerning forced absence sanction and punishments at a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14381/17]

 305. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on the evident ongoing excessive use of forced absence punishments in a school (details supplied) with regard to the negative educational impact on students at the school. [14383/17]

 306. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on the evident ongoing excessive use of forced absence punishments in a school (details supplied) with regard to the emotional and development impacts for students at the school and for their families. [14385/17]

 307. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on the evident ongoing excessive use of forced absence punishments in a school (details supplied) with regard to student school references and the adverse impact that such a high level of suspensions and expulsions will have on so many students' summer work and first career prospects beyond second level. [14387/17]

 308. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the steps she is empowered to take to investigate and to ensure that the evident excessive use of forced absence punishments in a school (details supplied) ceases immediately; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14389/17]

 309. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if any State agencies or Departments have, within the past 12 months, been in contact with a school (details supplied) concerning the excessive forced absence punishment regime and records there; when such contacts were made; the nature of the contact; the details of the responses received from the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14391/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 303 to 309, inclusive, together.

The Educational Welfare Service (EWS) of Tusla has confirmed that it has written to the school in question and offered to convene a meeting with the local Education Welfare Service team and the school's pastoral care team given the high levels of suspension and expulsion in the school. The purpose of the meeting would be to explore the use of the suspension process and offer guidance on alternative strategies such as restorative practices and to signpost school support services such as the National Education Psychological Services and the National Behaviour Support Service. No response has been received from the school to date. The local Education Welfare Officer continues to provide a service to any parent seeking advice and guidance in matters related to suspension and/or expulsion.

Educational Welfare Officers have no powers to compel Boards of Management of schools to act in a particular way, or to meet with them in matters of policy formation. Tusla EWS in its former iteration as the National Education Welfare Board published Guidelines for schools on Drafting a Code of Behaviour in 2007. While the Guidelines have a statutory basis in the Education Welfare Act the EWS cannot compel schools to follow them, other than advising and assisting parents in the matter of a potential appeal.

Further, my Department has no power to compel schools to manage their day to day business in any way other than those laid out in the Education Welfare Act.

Through the Whole School Evaluation Process, the Department of Education and Skills examines all policies and procedures of schools and makes recommendations for any changes. These Whole School Evaluation reports are publicly available on the Department of Education and Skills website.

Child Care Services Funding

 310. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the new affordable child care scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14507/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I can offer an assurance that any parent who is currently in receipt of a targeted childcare subsidy (either the Community Childcare Subvention or one of the Training and Employment Childcare programmes) and who remains eligible for one of those schemes will not see a reduction in their subsidy rate. Transition arrangements for the Affordable Childcare Scheme will include a "saver" provision under which beneficiaries under the existing schemes at the time of transition will, if the new scheme would result in a lower subsidy, continue to benefit from their existing subsidy for a transitional period.

I am very conscious of the pressures that both parents and childcare providers are under, and of the importance of having sufficient notice for any changes to childcare subsidies. My officials are working intensively, as are staff of Pobal, to ensure that the transition to the full Affordable Childcare Scheme happens as quickly and smoothly as possible, and that full information is available to parents and providers. I expect to be in a position to provide more information on the transition in the coming weeks, and supports will be provided to ensure that parents and providers are aware of changes that will affect them.

Child Care Services Provision

 311. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans to improve the community child care subvention programme, particularly for children whose parents are in band A, have benefitted from the old scheme and face higher rate payments under the new scheme, which will result in some children being deprived of child care, with particular reference to attendance at homework and after-school services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14539/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I plan to replace existing targeted childcare schemes, including the Community Childcare Subvention, with a single Affordable Childcare Scheme that links the level of subsidy to a family’s income, with the largest subsidies going to those with the lowest incomes. The benefits of moving to an income basis for payments under the new scheme include:

- Clarity, with a move away from a complex array of eligibility criteria under the current programmes to a single, clear basis under the new scheme.

- Reduction of welfare traps and increased support for progression into employment and retention in employment.

- Equity, in ensuring that low-income families that are in employment or self-employed are not excluded from benefitting from subsidised childcare. (Under the current schemes, payment is largely based on receipt of social welfare payments, rather than income.)

The base income threshold of €22,700 in the new Affordable Childcare Scheme will guarantee that the maximum rate of subsidy is available to all families below the relative income poverty line, while ensuring that the taper rate between the base and maximum thresholds does not generate strong disincentive effects with regard to taking up or increasing employment. It will also ensure that the majority of current scheme beneficiaries will receive the maximum subsidy rate under the new scheme.

While the new scheme will target subsidies predominately based on income, it was considered whether other criteria such as a work/training requirement should also apply, i.e. whether the family needs childcare because both parents - or one parent in the case of a one-parent family - are working or in training.

Incorporating a work/training test into the eligibility criteria ties the scheme more clearly to its labour market participation objective, given parents’ need for childcare availability to match hours of work.

Given that both a child development objective and a labour market objective are relevant to this scheme, it was determined that there should be a balanced approach to eligibility: while parents will qualify for a subsidy because of their income level, participation in work/training will determine whether the subsidy is for enhanced hours of childcare (up to 40 hours per week) or standard hours of childcare (up to 15 hours per week). When parents are not in work or training, childcare will be subsidised on a standard hours basis.

This approach will mean that this scheme is open – albeit for standard hours rather than enhanced hours – to parents who stay at home to care for their children, or who are not taking part in work or training, but who choose to avail of up to 15 hours of childcare per week. This 15 hours is inclusive of time spent in school or the ECCE Programme each week; in the case of school-going children it is considered that the child development objectives are met through school attendance and, therefore, the standard 15 hours of subsidised childcare per week will be available only in holiday periods (i.e. non-term time).

Finally, under the existing Community Childcare Subvention programme, to be replaced by this new scheme, beneficiaries may qualify for full-time childcare subsidies even if they are not in work or training. During the transition to the new scheme, any current beneficiaries who face a reduction in their subsidy will enjoy a “saver” status whereby they will retain their existing benefits for a period of time following the introduction of the new scheme. However, thereafter they, and any similar new entrants to the scheme, who are not in work or training will qualify for the standard hours of childcare only.

Road Signage

 312. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny his plans to upgrade the signage for the closure of the Hollow Road on the Curragh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14291/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Range No. 3 is a rifle range within the Curragh Camp and since March 2016 the Defence Forces have resumed training on this range. This has resulted in the occasional temporary closure by the Defence Forces of the Hollow Road. The temporary road closures are required as part of strict control and safety measures put in place by the Defence Forces to ensure public safety during the firing of live ammunition on Range No. 3.

  These occasional temporary road closures by the Defence Forces are in accordance with the provisions of Section 274 of the Defence Act, 1954, as amended. This provides the Defence Forces with the powers to temporarily stop all traffic in the vicinity of any place used for rifle practices. It is acknowledged that the occasional temporary closure of the Hollow Road may be an inconvenience for some local residents.

  I have been advised by the military authorities that signage is temporarily erected at either end of the Hollow Road and Brownstown on the day prior to the required closures. This gives advance notice of the date and duration of the proposed road closure. This alerts local residents and road users of the need to take alternative detour routes. Military Sentries are on duty at either end of the Hollow Road during the road closures to control the traffic and to advise users of the alternative routes.

  The military authorities have also advised that red warning flags are flown while firing is being conducted, and warning lights are activated in the centre of the Curragh Camp outside of the water tower, in full view of the public as further safety and information notification measures.

  The Defence Forces website, http://www.military.ie/info-centre/dftc-road-closures/, provides members of the public with details of planned road closures.

  There are no plans in place to upgrade the signage at this time.


Last Updated: 25/07/2018 12:02:35 First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page